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How to be a Hemingway hero

Acker, Molly | Friday, September 2, 2005

Those of us who have taken a literature class in our college careers have probably become familiar with Ernest Hemingway, one of the great authors of the 20th Century.

In his works, he often included characters that embody certain traits that his reader should aspire to. Such a character has come to be known as “the Hemingway Hero.”

The Hemingway Hero is often described as one who exhibits the principles of honor, courage and endurance. In other words, the Hemingway Hero displays qualities that, in a life of pain and tension, “make a man a man.” When the world knocks him down, the Hemingway Hero always gets back up and never loses his integrity.

Though Hemingway wrote some 70 years ago, the characteristics of his Hero still remain qualities that one would hope to possess even today. It is for these reasons that I believe college students should look to this Hero as a model for how to live our lives and display grace under pressure.

As students juggling academic, extracurricular and social affairs, we often find ourselves pressed for time. Rather than get worked up over the fact that you have two meetings to go to, a 10-page paper due tomorrow at 9 a.m., and plans to go out that night, be the Hero and bite the bullet. Do what you must do and get the work done.

Sure, you may not think you cannot possibly get through it all, but by complaining to other people about it, you are simply wasting their time and your own.

Let’s take another situation. It’s late Saturday night. You look at the clock, and, uh oh, it is now technically Sunday morning. Unfortunately you are not ready to call it a night, but the last beer has been cracked, and there are no more to be found. Since it is Sunday, you cannot just go pick some up around the corner at some place in Indiana.

What does the modern Hemingway Hero do? He perseveres. He finds a sober driver or calls a cab and heads to Michigan where you can buy beer seven days a week. (Though Hemingway was actually said to have preferred a gin martini.)

Perhaps it football season, and you have old friends visiting from another school. Their seats are across the stadium from the student section, but they want to spend time with you. The Hero has the answer. He courageously gets ticket books from those surrounding him in his section. The Hemingway Hero sneaks his friends into the student section, so they may all enjoy the game together.

The Hemingway Hero is able to more than just improvise in trivial situations, he also demonstrates a big heart.

In the wake of natural disasters such as last year’s tsunami or this week’s Hurricane Katrina, the Hero would do his part to help. Perhaps this means donating money to help in relief efforts or organizing a drive to collect necessary items for those affected.

When this good deed is said and done, the modern Hemingway Hero does not brag about his generosity. Instead, the hero is humble and glad that he was able to assist in some way.

Maybe this modern hero has a car at school and two friends who need to pick something up at Meijer. With the current astronomical gas prices, our Hero looks out for his friends. Rather than having three people taking separate trips to the store, the Hero offers to drive, so that the trio can travel together and save gas and money. A car-pool to class would also be a good way to consume less and save yourself and friends a little money.

In short, this modern day Hemingway Hero is someone to aspire to be (or at least be friends with). The Hemingway hero realistically confronts the basic questions of life and death (OK, maybe sneaking friends into the student section is not a matter of life and death).

He recognizes those situations in which the easy way out is also the least honorable way out. He does not choose the easy way out, but he does not seek glory for making a difficult decision.

When life presents a question, the hero has an answer. He is humble, smart and lives life as best he can living up to a high standard of moral codes.

The modern Hemingway hero is practical, creative and undeniably good to have around in a pinch.

Molly Acker is a senior at Saint Mary’s. She is a double major in communication studies and humanistic studies. Molly hopes you all have a great weekend. She can be reached at acke6758@saintmarys.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.